HUMBOLDT — With a snip of the ribbon, the Horizon School Division celebrated its brand new central office.
“Horizon School Division is one of the last school divisions in Saskatchewan to own a consolidated central office facility and we are proud to welcome you all here today,” said Jim Hack, the division's board of education chair, at the office’s grand opening on Nov. 15.
The $6.2 million, 22,780 square foot office was completed late last year, with school division employees beginning working in the building in January.
Before the ribbon-cutting, Elder Stuart Bitternose provided a prayer.
Gordon Wyant, the provincial education minister, said the new building is terrific.
“You see the school division come together to build a facility like this,” he said. “It’s great to consolidate all their operations. It can only help to make the delivery of public education in the area more efficient, so it's pretty exciting.”
Before the central office was complete, the staff were divided into two buildings: one in the lower floor of the Olymel building and one in a quonset located across Highway 5 that’s now been sold and moved out of town.
Kevin Garinger, the division's director of education, said the new facility has made their work easier. He recalled a story told to him by one of the division's managers about a task she had to complete.
“She told me that in the past, it would have taken up to a half a day to resolve the task that come up. Multiple emails and phone calls and perhaps a trip across the highway,” he said. “But in our new building, she finished the task within 15 minutes by walking down the hallway and having a conversation with her colleagues.”
The director of education said the new office also makes it easier to develop the skills of its teachers and other staff.
“With less than a year in this building we've already been able to host a great number of professional development opportunities and meetings for our staff are across our system and from across the province,” he said. “In previous years, we were required to rent meeting space from an outside facility if we wanted to offer those opportunities.”
That was a feature Wyant praised when he chatted with local media.
“One of the great things about bringing all the facilities together is the ability for the school division to provide up-to-date professional development to teachers and I think that that's pretty important.”
The office is also outfitted with the latest teleconferencing technology, which makes it easier for meetings to happen without travelling.
For example, the division has a leadership team made out of principals from 43 schools. They are meeting 13 times a year, using the teleconferencing system. The trustees themselves are also using the system when they can’t make it to Humboldt. At the last board of education meeting on Nov. 13, they tried out using a new videoconferencing system.
Wyant said combining the facilities and using new teleconferencing technology is good for students.
“At the end of the day, when you can bring all that together, it's good for the delivery of public education, good for teachers and good for the administration.”